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April 23, 2014
USC downs Upstate
It was sloppy and involved a mighty scare, but in the end it was just another non-conference win for No. 11 South Carolina as it defeated USC-Upstate 6-1 Wednesday night in front of 7,102 fans at Carolina Stadium for its fourth straight win.
The sloppy part came early, when the Spartans got a run across in the top of the first without the benefit of a hit. Two walks from starter Matthew Vogel and two errors, one on third baseman Joey Pankake and another on catcher Logan Koch, allowed Tyler Lesch to score and make the game 1-0, a score that would hold until the fifth.
Vogel found trouble again in the second when a walk, single and walk loaded the bases with two out and chased Vogel from the mound before three straight strikes from reliever Curt Britt (W, 2-0) ended the threat.
"We had two errors there in the first inning that kind of got me in a sour mood to start," head coach Chad Holbrook said. "We walked four in the first inning and two-thirds. So it wasn't a clean start for us, but it was good to get the win.
"Some games when you start that way it's too tough to climb out of the hole and you end up losing, so I'm proud of our our guys competed and found a way to win the game."
The scare came later; ironically, at the end of an inning in which the Gamecocks' bats finally erupted.
With only three hits and no runs to show for four innings of work, USC opened the fifth with a groundout from Koch before walks to Tanner English and Marcus Mooney put runners at first and second. With the double steal called, English recorded the second out trying to take third, putting a runner on second with two out for Gene Cone.
Cone dropped an RBI-single to center, one of three hits from the freshman from Spring Valley for the game, to tie the game at 1. Consecutive singles from Pankake and Kyle Martin loaded the bases for Grayson Greiner, who drew an RBI walk to make the score 2-1 USC.
Patrick Harrington then launched a sky-high popup to Upstate third baseman Brian Thompson, but Thompson dropped it, allowing two runs to score to make the game 4-1. Greiner was thrown out trying to take third on the play and was slow to get up as trainers came out to attend to him. He eventually walked off the field under his own power, but left from the game for precautionary reasons. After the game, Holbrook said the prognosis for Greiner was positive.
"He was hustling trying to get to third base," Holbrook said. "He jammed his neck and hit his head pretty good. I thought it was a concussion.
"When you get those concussion tests, when you get your bell rung, a lot of times you're out a week because of all the baseline concussion tests.
"Luckily, we did have some good news on the injury front. He did pass all the concussion tests, so as of now I think he's ready to go Friday."
Upstate answered quickly with a threat of its own in the top of the sixth, loading the bases on a hit sandwiched between two walks that sent Britt to the showers with one out. Inheriting a bases-loaded jam like Britt before him, Hunter Privette struck out the first batter he faced then got a groundout to short to close the frame.
The Gamecocks added two more in the seventh on an RBI double from Martin, who tied a career-high for hits with four, and an error on a Patrick Harrington grounder that allowed Pankake, who tied a season-high with three hits, to score. Besides Cone, Pankake and Martin, no other Gameocock recorded a hit until Marcus Mooney reached in the bottom of the eighth.
"When you're shorthanded, (Martin and Pankake) have to perform or it's going to be a struggle," Holbrook said. "When Connor (Bright) is out and some other guys are hurt and Max (Shrock) is out and Grayson's not catching, those guys have got to perform or it's going to be a struggle to score. Luckily they performed tonight."
A week after dropping five in a row for the first time since Ray Tanner's first season in Columbia (1997), South Carolina (32-10) has its mojo back just in time for a weekend showdown with No. 8 Alabama.
"We feel good as a team right now," Pankake said. "We're starting to score a few more runs. We could play a little better defense, but we're in a good spot right now going into the weekend."
UP NEXT: USC hosts No. 8 Alabama for a three-game series beginning Friday.
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